Top 10 Must-See Conference Matchups of the 2012-13 College Basketball Season
No Duke Blue Devils, No Problem
The 2012-13 NCAA Division I men's basketball season has a lot of quality in-conference match-ups to watch for. No, college basketball isn't like it used to be, where big-name schools dominated for years at a time. Well, unless you count John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats. Yet, Calipari just garners all the best high school recruits, it's not all about his coaching, as he's learning this season.
With many of the best players leaving after their freshman or sophomore seasons, quality basketball in the college ranks is getting harder to come by. That makes it all the more impressive that there's so many ranked teams in so many different conferences this year. That being said, let me preface this list by saying that it is a list of the best conference match-ups, not necessarily the best teams.
For instance, the Duke Blue Devils are off to a tremendous start this season. Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry are helping coach Mike Krzyzewski tear through the ACC. However, Duke is pretty much the only team in the conference doing that kind of work and the rest of the ACC just doesn't look nearly as good.
Then there's the Big East, which everybody seems to be counting out these days. I get it. I mean, it's not like the Big East has seven teams in the Associated Press Top 25....oh wait.
The Big 10 also has a few ranked teams which helps shift the power away from a loaded SEC. Not to mention there will always be upsets here and there that shakes up the AP Poll, but that's not what this list is about.
10. Kentucky Wildcats at Florida Gators
The Wildcats and Florida Gators are actually pretty evenly-matched this season, despite Calipari having a bevvy of five-star high school recruits. However, I would actually put Kentucky as the underdog here, seeing as how Coach Cal's kids took a nine-point loss against a Baylor Bears team that couldn't muster enough firepower to get past the College of Charleston Cougars.
It's time for the Coach to realize that talent doesn't mean anything without discipline and focus, and a Gators squad led by four-year players Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy just might have the talent to send Kentucky to another loss.
9. Pitt Panthers at Georgetown Hoyas
Otto Porter Jr. is a budding post presence for the Hoyas and leads the team with 13.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per-game in only his sophomore campaign. He's undersized but doesn't compensate by making stupid fouls or turning the ball over and can rack up steals like a guard. Advantage Georgetown.
Pitt gets wins with good ball movement and high-percentage shots. Suspect rebounding and and ability to close out games could be the Panthers' downfall.
At the very least, look for Talib Anna and Porter Jr. to battle it out down low.
8. Temple Owls at Butler Bulldogs
Kind of a battle of old and new for the Temple Owls and Butler Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs are kind of the new kids on the block and Rotnei Clarke is shooting out of his mind this season.
Butler doesn't exactly share the ball as much as most of the players know how to create their own shot, not a bad problem to have.
The Owls, on the other hand, are led by chuck-and-pray Khalif Wyatt, who averages 15.4 ppg while shooting a pedestrian 37-percent from the field.
Temple did upset the Syracuse Orange but only after a 10-point loss to the Canisius Golden Griffins. Odds favor Butler but anything can happen in the wild Atlantic 10 Conference.
7. Florida Gators at Missouri Tigers
Losses to Louisville and an upstart UCLA Bruins teams aren't terrible but the Tigers could be in for a rude awakening once conference play starts.
Sophomore transfer Jabari Brown has only three games under his belt for Mizzou due to transfer regulations but three 12+ point games show nothing to indicated the hot-shooting guard is rusty. If Brown & Co. can get past Boynton and into the Florida bench, all bets are off.
6. Michigan Wolverines at Michigan State Spartans
The Michigan Wolverines are off to a hot start and a trip to Spartyville might be just what could knock them off their game.
Michigan State Spartans coach Tom Izzo is known for his defensive teams and Branden Dawson and Keith Appling won't make things easy for Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.
All lovers of steals, breakaways and long-range shots need to watch this game.
5. Michigan Wolverines at Indiana Hoosiers
Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., meet Cody Zeller and Christian Watford.
The Wolverines have shooters but the Indiana Hoosiers have two post monsters who will corral nearly every ball that comes off the backboard.
The Hoosiers have fallen off the track a traditional preseason No.1 team would be on but don't count them out, even if it's the start of a three-game stint against ranked teams.
4. Butler Bulldogs at VCU Rams
Briante Weber is a dynamic young talent and Troy Daniels shooting the lights out from beyond the arc will make the VCU Rams a tough play for Butler.
Weber's improving court vision and suffocating defense make for a long night for Butler. Even with Rotnei Clarke lighting it up, Butler's 3-shooters will look foolish in the presence of Daniels. Let the offense begin.
3. Cincinnati Bearcats at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Cincinnati Bearcats can score in bunches and are one of the best rebounding teams in the country but the bunches part is the problem.
The Bearcats are using the boards they get for high-risk threes that could probably double their point output if Cincinnati took the ball inside more.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are much smarter with possessions and score at a higher rate as a result. If the Irish feed it inside to big man Jack Cooley and occasionally kick it out to one of their many sharpshooters, this will be a hard game for Notre Dame to lose.
2. Syracuse Orange at Louisville Cardinals
The Orange have ripped through all opposition this season with the exception of Temple and Syracuse can do it again if they can weather the bucket storm of the Louisville Cardinals.
The Cardinals beat teams with speed and a good transition game. Against the Orange they'll be trying to outrun a team that's already held nine teams to under 60 points.
The key match-up will be Louisville's Peyton Siva against Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams. Two hard-nosed, defensive point guards will be fun to watch.
1. UPSET ALERT Arizona Wildcats at UCLA Bruins
The Arizona Wildcats will not bring an undefeated record out of UCLA Bruins territory. There, I said it. With all the hype surrounding Nerlens Noel being a top freshman at Kentucky, Shabazz Muhammad is quietly building a case to be a top player, period.
In the first 12 games of Muhammad's career, he's shot below 40-percent from the field just twice, while putting up at least 15 points in every contest, including back-to-back 27-point performances. He can also get to the free-throw line like a mad man. Backed by the defense of Travis Wear and Kyle Anderson, Muhammad and the Bruins will be one of the Wildcats' toughest tests.
Arizona is riding on a ridiculous streak of good luck in a season where a call here or a missed shot there could've resulted in multiple losses.
Defensive specialists Nick Johnson and Solomon Hill can't carry the Wildcats forever, especially when top-scorer Mark Lyons is only averaging 14 ppg on a team that averages 14 turnovers per game.
Luck will only carry Arizona so far, then reality sets in.Mike Gillmeister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter:@mgillmei